Researching Toddlers Tech and Talk

Date: 7 March 2023
Topic: Policy Blog

Dr. Lorna Arnott, Director of Early Years at Strathclyde University, tells us about research exploring how babies and toddlers use technologies in everyday life and the associated literacy learning.

Digital media are a commonplace feature in contemporary family life. From birth, almost every child born in the UK has a digital footprint and digital media begin to influence how they live and learn. Around them, families are likely to watch internet-connected TVs and use smartphones or tablets to interact with distant family and friends. Very young children’s earliest toys might be digital or have digital components, such as Smart toys, educational or games apps and digital books.

These everyday digital practices offer rich opportunities to promote early talk and literacy, but many parents are unsure how to support their children’s use of new media in meaningful, playful ways that benefit their learning and their futures. Parents are also mindful of public debates that focus on risks to children’s digital safety and security rather than on how digital media influence children’s ways of living, sharing, engaging, and learning with and about people and the world. While there is rich research into older children’s digital learning and socialising, there are serious gaps in what is known about how very young children interact with, around and through digital media. We need more information about what devices and platforms they have access to, how long-standing social divides determine digital device ownership and use, and how parents, carers and siblings in majority and minority ethnic, privileged and disadvantaged UK communities support 0-3-year-olds’ learning with digital media.

Consequently, researchers across the UK are currently exploring how babies and toddlers use technologies in everyday life and the associated literacy learning. This project, funded by the ESRC and led by Professor Rosie Flewitt at Manchester Metropolitan University in collaboration with colleagues at the universities of Lancaster, Queens Belfast, Strathclyde and Swansea, investigates how the home lives of children aged three and under intersect with digital technologies in diverse families in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
As part of this work, a UK wide survey for the Toddlers Tech and Talk project has been launched and is the first of its kind to provide unique knowledge about current behaviours and attitudes towards digital technology use among very young children and their families.

If you are the parent or legal guardian of a child aged 3 or under, living in the UK, please complete the survey here.

Please also spread the word through your networks and ask others to help us too.

The survey is available in multiple languages (English, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Farsi, French, Gujrati, Polish, Panjabi, Romanian, Ukrainian, Urdu, or Welsh) online, in printed format or as a structured online interview, if preferred by participants.

The survey will take about 15-20 minutes to complete. It asks about digital device ownership and usage at home, parental attitudes, confidence and anxiety around digital media and demographic information.

Please also follow us on social media to keep up-to-date with the project and emergent findings.

Twitter: @ToddlersNTech
Instagram: @toddlerstechntalk
Facebook: @ToddlersTechandTalk